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NEWS | July 24, 2015

Soldiers test leadership skills to become future Army officers

By Pvt. Joshua Quandt 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORT MEADE, S.D. - Nearly 80 Soldiers from 21 states developed their leadership skills in a fast-paced, eight-week program to commission as second lieutenants in the Army National Guard at Fort Meade during the months of June and July.

The South Dakota Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 196th Regiment (Regional Training Institute) conducts a consolidated Officer Candidate School program annually for Army National Guard Soldiers across the United States.

Throughout the course, the officer candidates face multiple tests in physical fitness, ruck marches up to 10 miles, leading a squad and platoon-size team tactically through combat scenarios, demonstrating an understanding of basic military skills and Army management systems.

"We teach the students basic leadership skills such as how to use troop leading procedures, how to give an operation order and how to make plans to move their unit in a combat mission," said Lt. Col. Deb Bartunek, 1st Battalion commander.

About half of the candidates have no prior-service military experience, other than attending Basic Combat Training. Regardless of experience, the officer candidates leadership skills are tested the same throughout the course.

"We give them the opportunity to go through some stressful situations while we evaluate their ability to act under pressure and make decisions," said Bartunek.

One example where the student's leadership skills are tested is during the urban patrol lane where a Soldier leads a squad through a combat scenario at West Camp Rapid in Rapid City.

"We had to move through some rugged terrain, and we came up to an urban site and cleared rooms of potential insurgents," said Officer Candidate Jack Palmer, Oklahoma Army National Guard. "I really enjoy being in the field and the lane I was in charge of."

If the Soldiers accomplish all the tasks presented to them successfully, they will be pinned as second lieutenants to potentially manage a platoon of approximately 40 Soldiers.

"These Soldiers will leave the course with a toolbox of leadership skills to use when they manage and direct a platoon of their own," said Bartunek.

OCS is a great place to develop leadership skills, said Officer Candidate Justin Parks, Oklahoma Army National Guard.

"Being in a teamwork environment helps you to learn about yourself and others," said Parks. "Improving each other is what it's all about."